- India has covered Kashmir’s main city with a complicated maze of barbed wire that cuts through neighborhoods and regularly changes its layout to control the population as part of a crackdown in the region, The Associated Press reported.
- India last week voted to revoke two articles in its constitution that guaranteed the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to make its own laws and prevent outsiders from buying property in the region.
- The wire has been accompanied by a curfew and an internet and phone blackout, as well as armed police, steel barricades, drones, and helicopters.
- One expert told the AP the maze was designed to “psychologically break people and teach them that they’re not in control of their own bodies.” Pakistan, which also claims Kashmir, has accused India of “ethnic cleansing.”
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India is controlling people in Kashmir during its unprecedented lockdown by using barricades, armed police, and an elaborate maze of razor wire that changes configuration several times a day.
The state’s main city, Srinagar, has now been covered with a maze of razor wire and steel barricades, with authorities changing the entrances and exits multiple times a day and leaving residents confused, The Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
India last week voted to revoke two articles in its constitution that guaranteed the state of Jammu and Kashmir’s right to make its own laws and prevent outsiders from buying property in the region.
It also imposed a curfew and a communications blackout that shut off internet and phone access.
The elaborate network, which cuts through neighborhoods and blocks some roads, has a one-way system that prevents people from returning home in the same direction they’d traveled, the AP said.
One resident, Zameer Ahmed, told the AP that the wire network was “so vast, so expansive,” adding that “the entire Srinagar city has been knitted in razor wire to seek our silence and obedience.”
The wire is accompanied by armed soldiers in riot gear, as well as helicopters patrolling overhead, the AP reported.
The city’s population is mostly Muslim, and many residents are concerned that India’s recent moves will lead to an influx of Hindus, altering the cultural and religious makeup of the city.
One resident told the AP that India’s system was the “smartest blockade” he had seen in the region over 30 years. He said it was less violent than other efforts but still prevented people from voicing their opposition.
“If you must, they also allow you to venture out of home, yet they’ve throttled our voice by such a sophisticated blockade,” he said.
Another resident said: “They’ve changed the road map of our city, trying to make us like strangers in our own neighborhoods.”
Saiba Varma, a researcher at the University of California at San Diego who is in Srinagar, told the AP that the system was designed to “psychologically break people and teach them that they’re not in control of their own bodies.”
“They’re letting people eat but trying to control Kashmiri bodies, minds and spirits,” Varma said.
India’s altered laws would let Indian citizens buy property in the state, which critics say could be an effort to change its demographics.
The Jammu and Kashmir state is actually a smaller part of the Kashmir region, which has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two countries gained independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries claim the territory in its entirety and have fought three wars over it.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, on Sunday accused India of trying “to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing.” He said that “the curfew, crackdown & impending genocide” was “inspired by Nazi ideology” and compared global inaction on the issue to ignoring Hitler.
- REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui
Indian diplomats, meanwhile, last week accused Pakistan of trying to “present an alarming picture to the world.”
The police in the Jammu and Kashmir state have defended their moves, saying on Sunday that “not a single bullet had been fired in the last six days” and that protests in the state were small and stopped without violence.
Thousands of people in Srinagar on Friday protested the Indian government’s actions, and the police used tear gas to disperse them, Reuters and the BBC reported. India said that protests did not exceed 20 people, though the BBC had video footage of the large protests.
Pakistan this week asked the United Nations Security Council for an urgent meeting about the region. India has consistently argued that the dispute is a regional issue that does not warrant outside influence.